People Who Read People: A Behavior and Psychology Podcast

Is some offensive behavior due to psychological conditions?, with Timothy Jay

August 01, 2020 Zachary Elwood Episode 21
People Who Read People: A Behavior and Psychology Podcast
Is some offensive behavior due to psychological conditions?, with Timothy Jay
Show Notes Transcript

A talk with psychologist and expert on cursing Dr. Timothy Jay about some lesser known factors that can be present when people use offensive language, with a focus on the modern phenomenon of videos widely shared on social media showing people saying or doing offensive things. We discuss factors that may influence offensive behavior, including Tourette's Syndrome, brain disorders like Alzheimers, substance abuse, mental illness, and personality disorders. Dr. Jay is the author of the books Why We Curse, Cursing in America, and We Did What?. 

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Speaker 1:

Hello, and welcome to the People Who Read People podcast. I'm Zachary Elwood. In this episode, I'll be talking to Dr. Timothy Jay, a psychologist who has studied the phenomenon of cursing and offensive language and has written several books on that subject. His books include Why We Curse, Cursing In America, and his most recent book published in 2016 is called We Did What?, which is a look at inappropriate behavior from throughout American history. I'll be talking to Dr. Jay about cursing, but also about the use of offensive language by people with Tourette's syndrome and other conditions, including various types of mental illness. First, I wanted to go into a little backstory about why I wanted to talk about this subject. On social media these days, it's a pretty common thing to see videos of people engaging in offensive behavior; of someone saying, or doing rude, antisocial things, which can include misogynistic or racist speech. Some of these examples of bad behavior are people suffering from mental issues. In some videos, the person's behavior is not just bad, but also incoherent and disorganized. One recent example, the example that led to me wanting to talk about this, was a woman who had been captured in several videos saying racist and rude things to Asian people. There was a lot of outrage about this on social media, with people calling her racist and evil and similar harsh judgements. One popular Twitter account shared one of the videos of her and said,"This is an ugly American. There's been a sharp increase in these ugly videos over the past three years. And it's getting worse." When I watched a video of her, it seemed quite obvious to me that she wasn't psychologically well; the content of her speech didn't make much sense. It was disorganized and nonsensical. I'm going to play the audio from that widely shared video.

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[Video audio]

Speaker 1:

The audio doesn't convey the full strangeness of the encounter and of her behavior. She gets very close to the man and wears a carefree smile at times, almost as if she's having fun or bantering. But she did say quite a few things that stand out as being pretty incoherent. I could spend quite a bit of time analyzing this speech, but here are a few things that stood out.

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One thing she says is,"You play games. We don't play games." The person she was bothering, the person recording the encounter, then said,"Oh, what kind of game are you playing?" And it sounds like she says,"We play games where you get fucked to death," which obviously is pretty strange, and doesn't make much sense. Interestingly, in the other videos of her, she had this same theme of talking about games. This is a quote from another video that she was in.

Speaker 1:

"Listen to me. We don't play games here anymore. Next time you talk to me like that, you're going to get your ass kicked by my family. They're going to fuck you up." And then she follows that with these other illogical statements:"Do you know who your family is? Do you know who my family is? Go home to your family. This is from your government. Go home. This is from my government. Go home. You're getting fucked. You are so fucked. You're getting fucked. Your kids are going to get fucked."

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Just watching this video for a few seconds, this person seemed to me to be clearly suffering from some psychological disturbance. It's so clear to me from just this video, let alone other videos where she's doing similar things. Watching this and seeing the Twitter responses, it was disheartening to me how much outrage and moral judgment her behavior provoked, and how much people were trying to fit her behavior into various narratives, whether it was Trump's presidency or racial injustice in general. It was disheartening, but probably shouldn't have been surprising because we do as a society, probably across the world, have a lack of understanding and a lack of empathy about mental illness and the range of behaviors it can lead to. After these videos came out, an apparent friend of the woman's family, who was a doctor, posted on Twitter about her saying,"She's massively mentally ill. Been devastating her family for years, and she's off her meds and need severe help. No excuse. Just thought victims might want to know why." And now before I get to the interview with Dr. Timothy Jay, I wanted to preface it with a couple of points. First, obviously there are people who say and do bad and horrible things who know right from wrong and who have the amount of control that most people have over their own behavior. In other words, some of these viral videos of bad behavior do show people who are racists or who are just rude or antisocial, who are highly functioning. People who it would be difficult to categorize as suffering from a condition that would help explain their behavior. This is a long winded way to state what I hope is obvious: I'm not saying that all bad behavior is due to brain conditions or psychological conditions and can be excused in those ways. The point I do want to make is that in many cases of these widely shared videos of bad behavior, we don't have enough information to come to a good conclusion about what's going on. If someone is behaving in bad ways, especially if they're behaving incoherently, we should first consider the possibility that that person has some condition that might explain their behavior. Because unfortunately, some people who suffer from mental illness can behave in antisocial and aggressive ways, in ways that are out of their control, in ways that they wouldn't behave if they were in a more calm, normal state. In other words, in ways that don't reflect who they really are fundamentally. And so my goal with this episode is to raise awareness about that, because I think that this lack of understanding and empathy is an important topic.

Speaker 1:

It's an especially important topic in a modern society where so much behavior is immediately uploaded for people to analyze and watch and share, and where misunderstandings and overreactions are pretty frequent. And this topic also relates to excessive police violence because a disproportionate number of people hurt or killed by police are people with mental issues. This is an important issue in many ways.

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Another aspect I think is often overlooked: If someone is behaving in a horrible way, and that person is aware that they're being recorded, that scenario greatly increases the odds that that person is suffering from something affecting their judgment. When I look at some of these videos, the first thing that strikes me is that no person who was doing well mentally or in full control of their behavior would behave like that, knowing what most of us know about how these things play out and how such behavior can negatively impact someone's life.

Speaker 1:

Also something I think is not well understood: Sometimes there's a lack of understanding of how someone can be fairly high functioning yet still have serious mental issues. In the example that I played the audio of, the woman in the video was driving a pretty nice car. And some people would use this to support the idea that she couldn't be that mentally ill, because she wouldn't be allowed to drive a car if she were. But of course there are plenty of people driving cars who suffer from mental issues. Some people can have sudden psychotic episodes that come out of the blue. Some people can be quite stable for awhile and then have an episode maybe due to going off their meds or due to stressors in their life, or for whatever reason.

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Another widely shared video from a year ago or so showed a man being rude and abusive in a bagel shop, including him threatening people in the shop. He accused women and society of mistreating him because he was short. The man ended up getting punched and tackled by someone in the bagel shop during their encounter. This was another video where the man's behavior immediately struck me as being due to psychological issues. It came out that the man had a YouTube channel where he could be seen behaving in similar ways and where he ranted about his mistreatment for being short. He even referred to himself as the Martin Luther King of short people. Some people expressed the point of view that because he had a YouTube channel that he couldn't be that mentally ill, that the ability to create a YouTube channel showed that he was in some sense, mentally competent. And all of this, I think shows a misunderstanding of how a mental illness can present because you can of course, drive cars and upload videos to YouTube and do many complex things, including holding down pretty decent jobs, while having serious mental issues, or having the capacity to have a serious mental episode.

Speaker 1:

All of this is to say that I think we, as a society, as a planet, need more understanding of the struggles of people with mental illness, and that we need to take a step back when trying to interpret videos of bad behavior. Because so often we lack context about the situation and we lack knowledge about the conditions that people in such videos might have. One final note before I play the interview, Dr. Jay and I talk about some sensitive areas, and it can be difficult to talk about these areas off the cuff, without occasionally saying something inaccurate or a bit insensitive, at least when taken on its own. And this kind of misspeaking becomes more likely when you're not an expert in the area you're talking about. In my case, I have no degree in psychology. And if I accidentally say something that you think is inaccurate or insensitive, my apologies. Any Questions or criticisms, please send via the contact form on my website, readingpokertells.video. The following interview was recorded on July 30th, 2020.

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Hi, Dr. Jay, thanks for coming on.

Speaker 3:

I'm happy to be here.

Speaker 1:

Let's start with, how would you define cursing? And would you say it's a gray area of language or is it more of a black and white line?

Speaker 3:

First step defining cursing is, um, or swearing. It's our use of emotional language at, for two reasons. One is to vent or to get our emotions out and the other is communicate those emotions to other people. So it does both of those things, but usually people think of it in terms of venting, but it does no matter what of, of the variety of words you can pick, there's a whole range of appropriateness. What constitutes a curse word is, um, is gray. There are, you know, there are some that are clearly like the four letter words are clearly curse words and have been for hundreds of years, but then there are more mild slanging expressions that, um, for example, Oh my God. Um, I think a lot of people wouldn't consider Omar God to be swearing, but a hundred years ago, you couldn't say that on the radio and you couldn't put it in a, in a motion picture. So our, um, our view of language evolves and appropriateness shifts with, um, like clothing styles shifts with time.

Speaker 1:

Is it true? Also, I've read that singing and talking can be governed by different parts of the brain. Is it also true that some curse words like the more involuntary ones can be governed by a different section of the brain than normal speech? Is that accurate?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. There, there are clear tie-ins with cursing to the limbic system, the lower, lower part of the brain and the right hemisphere. So when people have damage to their left hemisphere, where I guess you would say regular languages, when they're, when they're Standage to that part of the brain, people still can swear, and you see this in senility, you see this in dementia that people forget, people forget who their relatives are, but they still know how to swear. And they're using it's called non propositional speech and it, and their idioms cliches sing song. And that's all lyrics. Those are all in a different part of the brain connected to regular speech, but in a different part of the brain.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. It kind of makes sense in a way, because, you know, when you, when you hurt yourself, you know, suddenly you can come out with a curse word and it seems almost involuntary, uh, something different in a class different than, than when you're just speaking normally.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I think there's a range of, um, that sort of automaticity. So there are some reactions that are ballistic and they're almost unretractable. And then there are, there's more thoughtful, more controlled, more purposeful use of swear words. So there's, yeah, there's a range of that, but the habit of swearing, I refer to it as a habit because that's, nobody's born with that habit. You learn that habit. It's built on our real primitive, emotional expressions, like crying and yelling and screaming and biting and scratching and what you see in infancy that kind of emotional expression. So that the habit of swearing, when you hit your thumb classic example, it's a learned behavior.

Speaker 1:

So you've written a good amount about Tourette's syndrome, which has people probably know includes symptoms of involuntary behavior, which can include physical, uh, involuntary movements, like, um, you know, small movements and, and, uh, repetitive movements, uh, vocal ticks like grunting or coughing. And they can include curse words, including offensive sexual words or racial epithets. Is it understood why people with Tourette's cannot control those kinds of behaviors or the respected theories about that?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. The understanding now is, um, Tourette syndrome is a motor tic disorder. So it's a, it's a, you can think about some muscular disorder, the inability to control you can't stop touching the doorknob. Um, you can't stop turning your head and you, and these symptoms usually start from, um, head to tail. So they start from that head and mouth and face, and then they work themselves downward with time. And what's happening is, um, the basal ganglia, which control, um, movements, ballistic movements, the brake doesn't work on that. And it's thought that the, uh, dopamine receptors in the caudate nucleus of the basal ganglia, which puts on the brake that those aren't working. And so the person has these uncontrollable ticks movements, vocalizations, and, um, swear words for, I think it's important to say that the overwhelming majority of Tourette syndrome patients do not have uncontrollable swearing. Most directors do not exhibit a corporate Lalia or uncontrollable swearing. And I think that's, it's important to say that because we have had a different stereotype of Tourette's syndrome, which is forced on us by popular media. So most, most shredders have milder motor ticks. And the things that we remember are that, you know, the more dramatic examples that we see on television or movies,

Speaker 1:

Is it known why Tourette's syndrome can present in so many different ways? For example, why does one person have small physical ticks and another person say very offensive things like we think about in the popular idea that, do you have an opinion on why, how it presents in so many different ways?

Speaker 3:

Well, it's, um, a function of the, of the damage to that motor part of the cortex. Um, so the more widespread that is the, the, the larger, the variety of symptoms. So some people you don't like any physical impairment, um, there's a wide range of, uh, severity. There's a wide range of, um, of the impairment. So it manifests itself at different levels. I've, I've had students in my class who, after we talk about Tourette's syndrome, they, they will come up and tell me they have Tourette's syndrome. And there was no obvious indication that they do, they take a medication and it controls the symptoms.

Speaker 1:

Is it possible to have, um, more taboo or, or, um, offensive physical gestures too? Not just offensive, uh, verbal statements.

Speaker 3:

Oh yes. These are, um, what are called these corporate phenomena. And, um, that, you know, what's interesting about these as they vary from culture to culture. So, you know, giving the finger will work in America, but not in Greece. So, so you'll get these obscene gestures. Um, it can be things like, um, behavior psych, um, you know, pulling down your pants, simulating masturbation, uh, in Kuwait. And there said documentation of a young girl who would a Muslim, who would pull up her skirt and show her leg, which is taboo now that, that an American wouldn't do that. So the symptoms manifest themselves in a variety of motor uncontrollable motor movements. And for the people that have the compulsive, um, corporate phenomena, this could also be writing. It could also be writing swear words. So there's a wide range of, of motor behaviors besides speech that exhibit this. But it, but again, it depends on culture. We think of this as, as a, um, disease like measles, but it's outer expression depends on a cultural context.

Speaker 1:

It's interesting to think, you know, trying to imagine a culture that has no taboo words, if such a thing could exist, you know, how would, how would someone wired to, uh, with that kind of Tourette's syndrome wiring, uh, respond? Would they just go to a physical, uh, kind of offensive things or, you know, it's, yeah. It's interesting to think about how much the culture influences the, um, the presentation. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Every culture has taboos. Yeah. Yeah. These, these are developed by the elders, you know, in ancient times, religious elders created these. So even now, when we look at a culture like Brazil or Spain, or, um, Dem some, some other country where religion is more prominent than in America, you'll get a predominance of, uh, religious profanities, you know, saying, uh, Oh my God, you were saying, holding mother where, you know, things like that, which wouldn't be so Cabo in America, but are taboo in these other highly religious cultures.

Speaker 1:

Do you think there's a, are there some overlaps or gray areas with other, um, brain or mental issues? You know, for example, can someone who presents as seemingly having Tourette's maybe have some other mental issues there and, or do you think it's always like a clear cut?

Speaker 3:

No, that's a good question because it comes in a variety of flavors. Like I mentioned before, it can, that can be severe. It can be, you know, more chronic turrets occurs with or co occurs sometimes with obsessive compulsive disorder or obsessive compulsive behavior. And you can see if you have an uncontrollable touching, like somebody who has to touch everything, they've walked by, they've got to touch the door. Now they've got to touch the car, they've got to touch the fence. Right. They got to touch the wall. They can't stop that. And so the pharmaceuticals that will alleviate the symptoms of Tourette syndrome will also are also the same things you prescribed with some people with severe obsessive compulsive behavior.

Speaker 1:

Right? So I mean, how I think about a lot of conditions and issues is there's just this wide spectrum. And, you know, the things that we call these conditions are just, you know, a, an attempt to capture these things that are just so, um, on so many dimensions and across so many spectrums, it seems to be the case here. Yeah. Because OCD, and Tourette's, now that you say that, yeah, it's very similar.

Speaker 3:

Well, I S I started studying how and why Americans curse almost 50 years ago. And the reason I've documented this in a half dozen books is this, is that not only the words are taboo, but as a phenomenon to study in various specialties, from medicine to psychology counseling, psychiatry, socio-linguistics therapy, the literature, when I started studying this was very thin and scattered why I wrote cursing in America and why we curse is to bring together. And if you went through the bibliography, you could see, I called on law medicine, psychology, sociology, mental health. I call I've called from all of these areas, little bits and pieces. And it's not until I would say within the last 10 years that we now have scholars like me who have found this area to be, um, of scholarly interests. You know, that it's a legitimate area, but I think over the years and over the different disciplines, this was pretty much ignored. And it, it's only something dramatic like Tourette's syndrome that captures the general public's attention. But swearing is very, it's a very complex, physiological, psychological, and cultural phenomenon. When you go to look at the literature of mental health and swearing, you find, I mean, I can ask nurses, I can ask my friends who work in psych wards, do people with substance abuse or anti social personality swear. Yeah, they sure do. You know, they might pick up something and throw at you. But finding that evidence in the literature is when I started out was almost impossible. I've studied swearing in a variety of mental health context as a way to educate people. But also as a way to educate my students who went to work with the elderly, who went to work with defiant, teenagers who want to work in nursing homes or people with various mental disorders to let them know what's out there, I've chased this down with epilepsy, with senility, with type a personality disorders, you know, and Tourette's syndrome is just one facet of this big complex picture.

Speaker 1:

When I got your book, why we curse one of your books? It was, I honestly wasn't expecting much because I thought, Oh, how much is there to say on this topic? But the more I read, I was like, wow, this is actually really interesting. And like a lot of things it's, you know, it seems like there's not that much to say, but when you actually look at it, you know, you delved into the law, the legal aspects, uh, some cases around it, you know, and yeah, no, just a really, really interesting book. And so you have a why we curse. And then there was a cursing in America. And I think he wrote one more about cursing.

Speaker 3:

Well, I have, uh, books, uh, what to do when your students talk dirty, what to do when your kids talk dirty. And I have the psychology of language where I try to tie all of this in with a normal study of language. And then my latest book, uh, which is sort of Indian encyclopedia, it's called. We did what, and it's all about offensive and inappropriate behavior throughout American history. So just like, yeah, that's a V I mean, to me, that's, I loved writing that book because I liked these encyclopedia type books. So you look at things, you know, like compulsive, swearing, you know, like the evolution of bathing suits in our country, you know, the film censorship, I put swearing as such a taboo in the context of sort of all inappropriate behavior. I think what I would back on my career, I would say, I'm I pioneered this area, you know, I tried to draw things together and I tried to document the scope of cursing in Y in a cursing in America. And then why we curse comes back as the theory. Like, we need a theory to explain.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, inappropriate behavior sounds like a fun read.

Speaker 3:

I have it it's I would, I was raised by a fairly religious mother. And my interest in this, you know, comes about through that idea of taboo. You know, like when you learn, um, the 10 commandments, you, you have to know all the things you're not supposed to do so that you don't do them. Right. So those infractions are in. Everybody said, now I'll say the same thing about swearing. Swearing is normal. Every competent person who learns a language knows how to swear. You have to, you have to know what not to say. And again, that comes in shades of like, wow, that's really bad. Don't say that. Or I can say this with my buddies, but I'm not going to use that word with my doctor. So everybody's ingrained with these things. And it's when you look at mental disorders or dysfunction and senility or Tourette's syndrome or frontal lobe damage, Alzheimer's dementia, there's where you see, um, what is usually suppressed. You see what's in there and it's, I mean, it's fascinating, but for some people it's too dark, it's too, uh, emotionally offensive, you know, to sexist, racist, um, talking about body parts and things that come out of your body. Some people just don't have the sensibility to, um, approach that topic. But it's part of being human. What fascinated me in the beginning was that this was rarely if ever discussed in psychology. And you could read a book on developmental psychology about children, or specifically about children's language and never read the children have trouble with swear words, you know, that they cause problems. But every parent in America knows that every parent in America knew that for centuries. Why isn't it in the books that educate people about children? It's a fascinating idea that for a while, I think that the common person understood this better than scientists wrote about it.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. It's interesting. When you talked about evidence, a research on this being hard to find, I, I had the same experience because as you know, I started looking Googling about this, uh, just recently, because I was interested in, you know, racial, racist kind of language from people with mental illness. And I couldn't find much about that, but I also just couldn't find much about antisocial, uh, taboo language from people with mental illnesses in general. And they kind of made me think that one aspect not wanting to present a negative view of people suffering from mental illnesses, I think, would you agree with that? That, that might be one reason why you wouldn't see that kind of thing written about,

Speaker 3:

Well, I, yeah, I think the underlying there's that, um, you know, let's try to paint a rosy picture, but then I think the, uh, the scholars working in those areas didn't fully understand it. And yeah, and I think that's another preface saying that everybody knows how to swear everybody swears. And so to, you know, to say, Oh, people do this because they don't have a good vocabulary or they're undereducated, or, you know, they from a bad background or they have a mental disorder while everybody knows how to do this. So that's not, you know, that's not a criteria and to discriminate against someone, if everybody knows how to do it. But yeah, I think that's certainly, it's part of our culture. You know, that's why I gave the HIA, their reminder in the beginning that most directors don't have trouble with lines.

Speaker 1:

Right. I think there's also this instinct to not talk about it, to not, um, present, you know, these, these negative viewpoints, you know, for example, I was talking about this on Twitter and someone, uh, talking about, you know, uh, people with mental issues, schizophrenia, and those kinds of conditions saying, you know, antisocial, taboo things. And someone said, well, I'm offended that you would talk about that because it gives people, you know, I, I suffer from bipolar and I don't want people having that opinion or having that presentation. And to me, that's, that's the wrong way to approach it because you're actually by not by not talking about it, even if it's a small percentage of people that present like that, you're making less empathy or understanding for the people that do have those presentations by avoiding the topic. You're also avoiding educating people and, and, and letting people have more understanding about how those symptoms present. And that got me thinking about like the, the instinct we have to not even talk about the taboo, you know, not talk about the taboo things. People say, you know, it can be, there can be beneficial things to talking about it and letting people understand the, you know, like the issues that Tourette's people suffer from where the issue, even if it's a small number or the issues that, uh, people with other conditions suffer from just, just increasing empathy for this, this range of behavior that can be, you know, kind of hard to wrap your head around or, or be empathetic with.

Speaker 3:

And there's a very simple mechanism, underlying taboo. And that is, once you say, this is taboo, don't do it. And you punish people for what they do or what they say, that's the mechanism, which makes it powerful. And we've done extensive. And we've, we've probably done the most extensive studies of children from one to 12 and how they learn how to swear and how their parents punish them. We've studied how parents punished children too. So you say that that's a bad word and you usually, most parents verbally reprimand their kids, or they, some of them do things like they still wash out their mouth or, you know, make them put hot sauce on their tongue. Things like that. It's that punishment of it that reinforces the power of it. And so in any domain where you're talking about children or mental patients, the, the avoidance of the taboo is what keeps it powerful. So we need, I think what we need, and just in terms of mental health is not just, why do people with mental disorders swear, but what, what do people with bipolar disorder? What does that whole population look like and what portion of those people with bipolar disorder or with Tourette syndrome or with, um, uh, senile dementia, what, what's the average in that? And that helps you, if you could look at that, you know, the base rate of any phenomenon like Tourette's syndrome and say, well, look, 80% of these people don't present this, that way. You get a better understanding of swearing if we're looking at that and mental health population, but it also educate you more about what the average person with senile dementia, what the stairs speech look like. Because some people get D you know, they get senile and get angry and frustrated and become very infantile. And others just become very Placid in serene, but what does that whole population panic? And so I think what happens in popular media is we get these exaggerated stereotypes and those become, those become the images that when we, when we call on a memory about something, we dredge up that stereotype, instead of, well, most people don't do that. You know, it's like seeing a shark attack and you think, well, millions of people swim every day around the world, but we're afraid of sharks because we saw that on the news last night. So then I think that, I think the same thing, most of what we hear about mental health patients is when they've done something destructive or self-destructive in the news, you know, the guy that's off this meds out shouting and swearing, and these are the guy that's going to get on, on the news, not the millions of people who don't do that.

Speaker 1:

So let's talk a little bit about other mental conditions like schizophrenia or other organic brain conditions that might lead to verbally aggressive or taboo behavior. Uh, do you see some of that kind of behavior as being linked in some way to the same factors that might that lead to taboo, um, language by Tourette's syndrome sufferers, can there be a factor of, uh, being drawn to these even unconsciously being drawn to these taboo or antisocial concepts? Does that make sense?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think there's two broad categories of, uh, problems or problem populations, Tourette syndrome. I put in the category with, um, when we talked about that uncontrollable, that non propositional right. Hemisphere kind of speech. So those people have something that we would call organic. There's something problematic about their brain, or they've had brain damage or some type of compromise of the physiology. And so those would be things like stroke, Alzheimer's disease, um, uh, encephalitis, those that something's wrong with your brain that causes you to expel these taboo words. The second category is not organic, but it's what we would call functional. So this would be, um, this would be more like, um, antisocial personality or the type, a personality who's always hostile and aggressive that kind of road rage person. So there's, there's something wrong with them psychologically, but not necessarily their brain and that, so that these two different populations, um, manifests wearing for different reasons. So you can see the same symptom, but the cause of it in one case is the brain. And in the other case is, uh, something, uh, some convention they've learned or some coping mechanism that they've learned.

Speaker 1:

I've read a good about them out about schizophrenia and psychosis and the dairies and presentations of them. And some of them have an aspect of, uh, you know, testing boundaries basically of, of, uh, you know, uh, one Springs to mind. It was a first person memoir about their, you know, schizophrenia experiences and describes them being very aggressive towards the doctors and the, you know, mental hospital and saying horrible things to them. And, you know, some other, um, presentations play into this, but it strikes me as basically like a boundary testing. Like they wanna they're testing reality in a way, like wanting to see, um, you know, what they can get away with, uh, not to say that it's purposeful, but there seems to be a, um, involuntary, like you want to see what you can get away with at least, for at least for some, uh, some patients anyway.

Speaker 3:

Well, yeah, there, there, you've raised two important aspects of this like that. Yeah. The schizophrenia behavior and speech might look chaotic and random to you, but what, what does it mean to that person? You know, why are they doing this? So what you see might be different than what their goal or what their purpose is. And the second aspect is it really, a lot of this really depends on context. So you raised an interesting point that the schizophrenia in a clinical setting with clinicians, with doctors that is a source of agitation, which manifest itself in the offensive language, but in a totally different context, the person might be much more quiescent and, and peaceful. So we, I see that a lot in with senility in that in a nursing home, a nursing home is a very controlled, and there's many sources of agitation for a person in a nursing home, the lack of control over what I'm doing, where I'm going. And so that the context itself can't be ruled out as giving rise to compulsive, swearing, or swearing for any mental health patient. You gotta look at WhatsApp, where are they when they're doing this? So, yeah, well, yeah, schizophrenia, schizophrenia has, again, it's going to be a wide variety of, uh, you know, very florid, unusual behaviors, or it can be, you know, it can be more mild and you take that person in a different contexts. You have to really look at the person in the context to get a sense of, of what they're presenting.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And as you say, I think there's when people view the world in threatening ways, as, as, as schizophrenia do there, there's coping mechanisms, you know, involving lashing out and, and basically offending and attacking other people physically or verbally, or are these coping mechanisms to deal with a very threatening world, you know? And it may seem completely outlandish and chaotic and nonsensical to us, but there is some reason they're, you know, they're, they're dealing with a very scary, terrifying world.

Speaker 3:

Yes. Yes. Well, put, I agree with that.

Speaker 1:

Uh, and this is a topical issue because there's been a lot of cases of people behaving badly in viral videos and, uh, and, and a lot of, uh, social media, um, responses to those kinds of, uh, videos that show horrible, offensive, antisocial language. And, you know, that can be anything from just saying horrible things to racist language, or just, just horrible things in general. In some of these instances, some of these people seem to me to be very high likelihood of having some mental issues going on based on, you know, chaotic and nonsensical the other things that they were saying. And when I've brought that idea up in social media, that there's a lot of people that respond with basically an idea of, um, even if they're having mental issues, they must be fundamentally hateful or racist or bad in some way to say such things, which seems to me, just to be a, a lack of understanding of how a social behavior can present from people with mental issues. So I'm wondering if you have an idea of how much these bad taboo things that people say, offensive things that people say actually can be said to reflect what they actually believe. Like when they're at a, in a more normal calm moment or whatever,

Speaker 3:

I'll go back to my 10 commandments. You know, like everybody knows what's inappropriate to function in our culture. You have to know what racist language is. Everybody knows those things, but let's have some understanding for why is the person saying this? Do they have a personality disorder, or they have a substance abuse disorder, they have bipolar disorder schizophrenia. Do they have control over this or not? So you can't say the argument against the person it's like, they still shouldn't do this. Well, you know, if their brain, if they have brain dysfunction, they can't help themselves. You know, people with frontal frontal lobe damage, they don't have the executive function to stop these things that they would have without the brain damage. So, you know, what part of it is the person and what part of it is the brain that gets, think that's one thing. And, you know, we all have a sadness. All of us know what racist language is, but the term redder who uses the N word when she's standing in line behind the guy in the bank, you know, that words in there, but that context she's, you know, anxious, waiting in the bank to do her business. And that occasion triggers that response. I think what people need to do looking in the media, you don't need to just moralize them out this while you shouldn't do it while the tarator or shouldn't have their ticks, but their, their brain is doing it. So you have to really look at where's the agency. And what's the context. And again, what crops up in social media are these things that are interesting, dramatic, funny, sad, repulsive. You're not going to put too much Monday and things on there, that same person, you know, you know, sitting comfortably on a park bench, it's not time you, no, I've written an article about this sort of offensive things on, on the internet and the moral order over what's out there. What should be out there? You know, like different populations is, you know, you know, we have free speech, but at the same time, you know, we should have the freedom to not see some things. The internet, social media is very complex environment. And we can see this every day. We're just learning what the limits of this are and you know, who should control it. So you take something problematic that most people don't understand, like swearing, compulsive, swearing, and put that out where billions of people can look at it. And you're gonna, you're gonna get confusion about what it really means. People that have mental problems, you can't say, Hey, just be normal. If we could control our emotions, we wouldn't need psychiatry. And I think that's kind of the point. Some people can't control these kinds of behaviors, and that's why we have all these pharmacological interventions. It's not just religious moral thing. Like, Hey, behave yourself. You know, all of these examples, we're using a people with behavior problems. They need help.

Speaker 1:

There was a response yesterday. There was a, there was a Twitter thread about Kanye West's mental health struggles and his strange, sometimes offensive public statements. And someone said, if people with mental illness want equal rights, then they should realize that they too will be called out for saying, or doing something that is outrageously asinine. I thought about that a bit, because in a way there is some truth to it because we still have to judge and call out bad behavior. But it also struck me as very insensitive to that. These, like you said, these people can't, some people cannot control their behavior in that way. And to just act like it's a matter of calling them out with, you know, there needs to be some greater awareness of the, of the struggles people have with various, uh, the various mental struggles people can have. And I think that's what we lack as a society, you know, a widely, it's just a lack of understanding of, uh, of these kinds of issues. And people jumped to conclusions all the time about very bad behavior. And yeah, it just seems like we need more, more understanding about that.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I think you made a great point. That's probably the, one of the underlying themes of our talk here, and that is an insensitivity to an insensitivity. You're being insensitive to a person who's incentive. You know, they're not controlling their behavior for, for a variety of reasons. So I think what the picture we need to, uh, develop is a compassion for somebody who has mental problems and not just fly off the handle interpretation and reaction about what their problems are. You know, it's like, think about what's happening there before you criticize, but we're in a culture where, you know, we're very competitive. And so, you know, we want to, I need your reaction to things we like. And don't like, and it's just, it's not very thoughtful

Speaker 1:

By responding to people with mental issues who are displaying antisocial, offensive behavior by giving them outrage in a way that is what they are seeking. You know, it's not that they're seeking that consciously. I mean, but for whatever reason, they're choosing that antisocial behavior. And by giving them that you're, you're basically exacerbating their, uh, their issues in a way. I don't know. I I'd have thought there, it didn't come up.

Speaker 3:

Think about what your reaction would be to somebody on the corner. Maybe not dressed appropriately close or disheveled or dirty they're spouting on about something and using some offensive or racial language. What's your reaction when you see that person to me, most people just want to like get away from them or yell at them or do something aggressive towards them, which is gonna make it worse. But what that person needs is help and compassionate reaction to that person would be, Hey man, what can I do to help? Can I help you? But our knee jerk reaction is like, God, get me away from this person. Or being aggressive toward them is going to make things worse, but people should think, how would I react? How should I react? How would I explain this to my kid? You know, you've got a little kid that's watching this mom, what's wrong with that guy. And then like, how do you explain it? Can you explain it?

Speaker 1:

Well, yeah, you made me think too, you know, some, some of the people I see on the street and Portland, you know, or that are behaving in, in a chaotic, uh, aggressive ways, it almost has an element of they're looking for an interaction with the world and the fact that they are continually ignored. It's almost like the, you know, I'm not a, I'm not a psychologist, but it almost seems like they are looking for someone to interact with them. And the fact that they haven't got interaction makes them continually act, you know, more and more worse. You know, there, I think there can be an element of that where it's like they're seeking some connection in some way, you know, and, and maybe, maybe a factor of them acting badly is that either they're responded to badly or just completely ignored.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I think that the disability population would say the same thing. Um, they're invisible

Speaker 1:

Or, or treated like pariahs one or the other. Yeah,

Speaker 3:

Yeah, yeah. Which neither of those things are good for mental health.

Speaker 1:

And I once read somewhere, I can't remember where it always stuck with me that it, you know, it was very unfair that the people who really need our love the most are also the people that are, are the most hard for us to love, you know? And, and that, that's a tough thing. And a sad thing, you know, by then, I think it's, it's often true.

Speaker 3:

Well, I think we have a, a healthcare population that attracts a certain kind of person who wants to work with the elderly or the infirm or the disturbed, not all of us want to do that, you know? So it takes us, it takes a certain kind of sensibility to do, to reach out and help. But I think, again, like we've said, the bottom, the bottom line is like, we need to be educated about what these populations of patients are. You know, what's their life like

Speaker 1:

Kind of a left turn, but something you said earlier made me want to ask this, when you talk about religious taboos, you know, like the, uh, the things that are a religion or a culture, uh, sets aside as taboo, do you think for people that really follow that, um, that religion, that belief system, can there be something about the taboo that draws people to it? You know, it's the, it's the forbidden. And I wonder if you have any thoughts on that

Speaker 3:

I've worked with, uh, Mormons who claim they don't swear, at least not in public, but they develop euphemism. So darn for damn sugar for shit. You know, so the mechanism for emotional expression is still there, right? We're emotional animals, but they've learned this other habit, which kind of masquerades, right. It covers up what is there, I think with the important dimension is order or control, right? So a person that religious mind is one which has a certain view of the world. What's tolerable. What's not tolerable. And I evaluate my self worth my worth as a person, by my ability to follow this moral code. And then there's a lot of, there's a lot of reasons why people reject that or not conform to that, or if they have, you know, mental compromise, why that rigidity would be compromised, and then you would get the inappropriate behavior, inappropriate language. Again, some religions are intolerant of any, you know, some of the things we see in the middle East are intolerant of what Americans would consider as a small infraction or being seen with a woman in public, you know, showing your face in public dose. That's not even on the radar for most Americans, but, um, you know, it depends on how you are raised in that religious culture and what the consequence would be for breaking those taboos. If death is a consequence, you better not fool around with those taboos.

Speaker 1:

Sometimes it seems like the taboo can represent freedom in a way, you know, maybe, and maybe that's why sometimes people are drawn to those behaviors. And I'm not just thinking about cursing or whatever, but also just, you know, religious people caught doing things that they speak out against, or they kind of want to escape this strict thing they've built for themselves or, or, or,

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think it's not just freedom. It's like exhilarating. It's exciting. Exciting. Yeah. It's amazingly appealing because it's so exciting to do this and get away with it. The preacher who, you know, rails against a sexuality and then gets caught with a prostitute or whatever

Speaker 1:

The restaurant it's. Yeah. Whereas like some of these things are not, not exciting for other people. And they're very exciting for the people that have set them as tidbit taboos. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

I mean, w we all experienced this all the time. Let me back up, I think, but I think what you're saying, living in a orderly life is, is freeing in that I know, you know, I can't stray out of this, so I just do what I'm supposed to do. I won't get into trouble, but then it's exciting if I break out of these rules. So there's like, where are you going to experience this, uh, testing the boundaries, you know, and how exciting that is, you know, what, what can I get away with? But if I, as long as I stay within the rules, everybody's happy. I think that's a general aspect of culture. As long as everybody obeys the rules, the power to control us is invisible. But if you break a rule, then the institutions of power, which could be your parents or religion or government or media standards, they have to assert their authority by punishing you. So I always tell my students, if you want to see who's in power, go break a rule, go do something you're not supposed to do. And somebody, somebody has to sanction that and that. So I think whether you're talking about religion or any other type of order, you know, that's especially adolescents, they are going through a period where they want to test these boundaries. What's going to happen. If I do that,

Speaker 1:

Anything else you would like to talk about as far as behavior or cursing related work that you're working on now?

Speaker 3:

To me, there's one of the interesting thing is the, since we started kind of looking at social media or the impetus for our talking was images of mental health and language in the media is how is this going to unfold in the future? You know, what are, what are the boundaries? Because we have a culture now, like guys look at what's available, versus what, when I was a kid in the fifties and sixties, you know, like access to offensive language behavior, we have a culture of children. Now, their, their brains are growing up in a very different environment. And what will that look like? Going forward to me, the real puzzle of this, whether it's for normal people or people with mental disorders is we have very little idea about how children infants acquire these things, which eventually become taboo. There's no, there's very little research into, and I think for moral and ethical reasons, it's hard to, you know, like how would you study what parents say to their kids or why kids become racist and what kind of language they're used, how their parents punish them. That to me, is that where I think scholars like me need to focus in the future, like to better understand that the learning mechanism behind this, the soap in the mouth doesn't work people so open your mouth does not work.

Speaker 1:

I got that once from my grandmother, that was the only time that ever happened to me. I was, I was like, what is this? What are you doing?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, it's, you we've studied this. It's usually the mother or the grandmother. And it usually takes place in the, in the bathroom, right. Where you clean up things. And that's why the soap is dirty mouth. You know, you ended up, this is a very primitive punishment, but it's never worked. Censorship has never worked. I mean, these words, that four letter words that we consider our taboo have been around for probably a thousand years. And of course, we're all gonna learn them.

Speaker 1:

It's like trying to implement, you know, prohibitions is not going to work. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

You create desire by a taboo is that you're not allowed to do it. Right.

Speaker 1:

It's exhilarating, like you said. Yeah.

Speaker 3:

Yeah. I mean, that's the whole industry of keeping people away from sex and children away from sex. That's what makes it powerful.

Speaker 1:

Yeah. And what you said made me think, well, we really need to advance our, uh, media literacy and awareness of in this modern age, you know, being presented in social media with this constant onslaught of, you know, immediate things that people just did and off the cuff things people said and, and things people captured, you know, we, I think as a society, as a world, really, we need to advance our understanding of a lot of things. You know, and one aspect of that is awareness of mental health awareness of context, awareness of, uh, you know, you can be against a behavior and even decide to punish that behavior without forming a moral judgment about the person doing it, or, you know, basically withholding judgment in this, in this day and age of constantly being bombarded with out of context clips basically. And I think there's a lot to, you know, if we're gonna survive basically as a species with this new, these new technologies, it's, it's like we have to become more mature in how we analyze video media and behavior in general, you know,

Speaker 3:

You're making me think we, we need more education and understanding less entertainment, less being titillated and a knee jerk reactions. We need more thoughtful understanding of well, that Buddhist idea of mindfulness, you know, of like what's really happening here rather than just, Oh, I need to be titillated. I need to be entertained. Let's go on and look, you know, being aware of, uh, and understanding these kind of poignant aspects of our life. That's a professor of 40 years of teaching and a psychologist who, who sees this as just a common human frailties. We need more understanding,

Speaker 1:

Right. And it's just become even I think with social media and the immediacy of social media, it's become that much more important because previously, you know, we had gatekeepers of this kind of content that would be like, well, I'm not going to share this with a greater audience because of, you know, knowing the context of this or whatever. Whereas now that immediately goes online where, you know, a million people can react to it. And these things have entertainment. As you say, it's in a way, these are kind of like watching a gladiator fight or something. It's like, Oh, let's see what this conflict is that has been captured. You know? Yeah. I agree. This has been dr. Timothy J it's been great talking with you. Any last things you want to say, any, anything about where people can contact you or find you anything like that?

Speaker 3:

I have a website. I think if you Google Tim J cursing, you'll get to my website at Massachusetts college of liberal arts. MCLA um, I also, I have an author site with my books on Amazon. If anybody's interested in reading more of this dirty stuff, um, yeah, we did what, it's got a picture. It looks like Lucille ball on the front of it with a quizzical expression. I, that book has all the entries in it are less than a thousand words. So, you know, you can put it in the bathroom and work your way from beginning to end.

Speaker 1:

Well, it's been great talking with you and thanks for coming on.

Speaker 3:

Thanks for considering my work. I appreciate it, Zach.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for listening to the people who read people podcast with me, Zach Elwood. If you'd like to learn more about the podcast, you can see episodes summaries@readingpokertells.video slash blog. If you like the podcast and want to send me a donation, which would increase the likelihood of me doing more interviews. My PayPal email address is info@readingpokertells.com. Otherwise, please leave a rating or review on the platform you listen on. That'd be much appreciated. Take care.